E. Jean Carroll’s lawyers can play ‘Access Hollywood’ tape at civil rape trial against Donald Trump
March 10, 2023 Updated Sat., March 11, 2023 at 8:29 p.m.
NEW YORK – Lawyers for writer E. Jean Carroll can call two women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct as witnesses at his upcoming civil rape trial and play the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape for the jury, a New York City judge decided Friday.
In a 23-page ruling, Manhattan Federal Court Judge Lewis Kaplan gave the green light to all of Carroll’s requests ahead of the spring trial.
Carroll, who is suing Trump for defamation and sexual battery, has accused him of raping her in Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue in the mid-1990s. Trump denies the allegation.
Kaplan found the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump bragged that his fame gave him license to grope women, was relevant to the case.
“(A) jury reasonably could find, even from the Access Hollywood tape alone, that Mr. Trump admitted in the Access Hollywood tape that he in fact has had contact with women’s genitalia in the past without their consent, or that he has attempted to do so,” Kaplan’s decision reads.
The jurist disagreed with arguments from Trump’s lawyers that uncharged sexual misconduct allegations by two other women – Natasha Stoynoff and Jessica Leeds – shouldn’t be included in trial testimony.
Leeds and Stoynoff were among the women who came forward with sex crime allegations against Trump in 2016 when he first ran for president.
Stoynoff claims Trump pushed her up against a wall at Mar-a-Lago during a December 2005 interview, when she was interviewing him for People magazine, and forced his tongue down her throat. She alleges Trump came at her after a heavily pregnant Melania left the room and that he stopped when a butler walked in.
Leeds says she was assaulted by Trump while seated next to him on a flight to New York in the 1980s, when she was a traveling saleswoman for a paper company and was bumped up to first class. She claims that he grabbed her breast and put his hand up her skirt.
Trump, who denies both accusations, had asked Judge Kaplan to bar Leeds and Stoynoff from testifying on the basis the alleged events were widely separated in time, among other arguments.
But the judge wasn’t convinced.
“Mr. Trump’s attempt to minimize the similarity between his alleged actions with respect to Ms. Leeds and Ms. Stoynoff, on the one hand, and Ms. Carroll on the other is not very persuasive. The alleged acts are far more similar than different in the important aspects. In each case, the alleged victim claims that Mr. Trump suddenly attacked her sexually,” Kaplan wrote.
“In the cases of Ms. Carroll and Ms. Stoynoff, he allegedly did so in a location after closing a door behind him, which gave him privacy. In all three cases, he allegedly did so without consent. So it is only Ms. Leeds’ case that differs in an important particular – the fact that the alleged assault occurred on an airplane in circumstances in which, despite the fact that both she and Mr. Trump were in bulkhead seats, afforded little privacy.”
Judge Kaplan has not yet decided whether the upcoming trial will cover two lawsuits Carroll has filed against Trump. The first one includes a defamation claim, alleging Trump slandered Carroll when she first went public with her rape claim, called her a liar and said she was “not my type.”
A Washington DC Court of Appeals has yet to decide whether Carroll should be suing the Department of Justice and not Trump the individual because he made the comments while president. The Biden administration has continued to defend that argument, claiming it’s not Trump it’s trying to protect but federal employees from being sued.
Carroll’s second lawsuit, which includes the sexual battery allegation and another defamation claim for further comments by Trump, was the first case filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act in November. The legislation gave victims of sexual assault a year to sue their alleged abusers no matter how long ago the incident occurred.
Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina declined to comment on the decision, as did Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.